Spurring on Loch Etive

After a couple of weeks of cold, windy and snowy weather I really welcomed the prospect of a calm, sunny day on Friday. Ian was up for the challenge of an early morning start, so high water saw us slipping the dinghy into the cold waters of Loch Etive around half-eight.

I followed my usual habit of fishing a spot or two down the loch on the ebb tide and we got what has become the usual result – very little. Only 3 or 4 whiting in fact, which suggests I need to revamp tactics a little. Or perhaps building the new fish farm nearby has disrupted things a bit?

Ben Cruachan in the winter sunshine
Ben Cruachan in the winter sunshine

Reversing course well up the loch put us into more fish friendly territory. Micro-spurs to be more precise 🙁 I don’t know which is worse – catching nothing, or hauling tiddlers 250+ feet. We were kept busy hauling them to the surface and soon shed our jackets as we started overheating in the sunshine.

Little and littler - an LSD and a micro spur side by side. We had loads of tiny spurdogs on Loch Etive today
Little and littler – an LSD and a micro spur side by side

Happily things started to improve and a handful of better fish appeared. Ian provided this nice fish of just over 9lbs and I added another not long afterwards.

Ian with a fine Etive spurdog
Ian with a fine Etive spurdog
Another nice spurdog comes to play
Another nice spurdog comes to play

A sprinkling of whiting and a suicidal poorcod mixed it with the spurs and Ian did his usual efforts to clear any LSDs from the vicinity. I think he managed 8 to my 1!

A poorcod and a whiting - the poorcod makes good bait, the whiting less so.
Poorcod and a whiting.
Tangles - the less glamorous side of fishing!
Tangles – the less glamorous side of fishing!

A couple more spurs around 9lbs came along as we basked in the sunshine and munched a bacon roll or two. Not exactly fantastic fishing but a lovely day to be afloat in midwinter!

Me holding a nice spurdog with Glen Etive in the background
Me with a nice spurdog
Ian and another Etive spurdog
Ian and another Etive spurdog

Towards the end of the day I picked up a codling in the 2.5lb bracket and Ian added the only thornback of the day with a decidedly muddy specimen. The temperature plummeted as the light faded so we didn’t hang around into the dark

Our final tally was around 50 spurdog (the vast majority very small), perhaps 10-12 whiting, 9 LSDs, and one each of thornback, codling and poorcod.

Etive looks a little grey as the sun disappears (Ian's pic)
Etive looks a little grey as the sun disappears (Ian’s pic)
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Scottish Sea Angling – My Video Highlights

Sea angling in Scotland is a strange sort of business really. You spend much of your life trying to find a day or three when the weather isn’t going to be too unkind – and then head off to try and catch a few small to middling sized fish, most of which you then return alive. Of course it’s not all like that, as this video tries to get across…

It’s a very personal compilation of video highlights of my sea angling in Scotland, from both small boats and the shore. A little biased towards feistier and photogenic species such as tope and hounds, but also the fun of fishing a full-on east coast storm for cod and some skate fishing too. I love the chance to camp out under the stars on remote shorelines so there’s some footage of Etive, Sandwood, etc.

Showcasing Sea Angling in Scotland

More than one of the trips included here resulted in no fish at all, but often-times I find that really doesn’t matter much.

I’ve tried to cover a range of venues on both east and west coasts, including Wigtown and Luce Bay, Etive, Sunart, Oban, Sandwoood Bay, Aberdeen, Dunbar and others.

I also have to admit that part of the motivation behind this video was to see whether it’s possible to capture some of the excitement of fishing for the more chunky predators that are out there. That’s the reason why I chose the soundtrack from one of GoPro’s own fast-paced adverts…

And I should also point out that a GoPro died making this video 🙁

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Summer fishing mini-reports

I find I tend not to do too much fishing in the height of summer, if there is such a thing in Scotland, but I do try and wet a line from time to time and here are a few mini-reports that didn’t get the full treatment.

An Afternoon on Loch Leven

Bonnie and I headed over to Loch Leven for a few hours shore fishing in July. A bit blustery with a mix of sunshine and showers, but warm enough. We pretty much fished all the way up a rather large tide.

High tide on Loch Leven covers most of the marks
High tide on Loch Leven
Bonnie waiting for her turn to play, as we spend the afternoon shore fishing on Loch Leven
Bonnie waiting for her turn to play

I can’t say as the fish were very co-operative, but I managed a couple of rays and a dogfish through the afternoon so a blank was thoroughly averted. Poor dog wasn’t so happy when I’d to deal with her tick fest later on though …

A small shore caught thornback ray
A small shore caught thornback ray
A great backdrop for an afternoon's fishing
A great backdrop for an afternoon’s fishing
Lesser spotted dogfish are one of the most common catches in Loch Leven
Ever-present dogfish

Early August off St Andrews

St Andrews threw up a few Pollack and a good number of codling for Ian and myself at the beginning of August, although we’d to wait the best part of four hours before they switched on as the tide turned and light started to fade. No monsters (I say that all too often!), but a useful top up for the freezer. Mackerel were fairly plentiful and I added coalie, ling, and a dogfish to the total for the day.

My fish of the day was this Pollack - kind of underlining the lack of quality from St Andrews today.
My fish of the day was this Pollack… (pic courtesy of Ian)

As usual the zig-zagging through the lobster pots in near darkness added a little interest at the end of the day.

Loch Etive Spur-fest

Last weekend saw me having a lazy day out on Loch Etive, trying a couple of new marks for me and trying to get a better understanding of a couple I’ve fished before.

About half the day was spent chasing small spurs and middleweight pollack miles up the loch, with a few whiting, doggies and a single codling making up the numbers.

A pair of Spurdog from 400 feet down in Loch Etive
Spurdog from 400 feet down in Loch Etive
This plump Etive whiting coughed up a load of fish farm pellet food
Plump Etive whiting – full of fish farm pellets

Shifting further down towards Bonawe and into deep (over 400 feet) water seemed to ignite more interest and I had a solid 90 minute spell of fish two at a time within seconds of hitting bottom. All of which would’ve been more fun if it didn’t involve a long, long haul to get them aboard!

A double hit of whiting and spurdog from Etive
A double hit of whiting and spurdog from Etive
A pollack from Loch Etive, taken on a lead head and firetail jelly worm many miles from the open sea
Loch Etive pollack

New Videos

I also found the time to put together a couple of videos for Loch Etive and Loch Leven, based on trips there in recent years and fleshing out Corkwing’s pages on each.

Fishing Loch Leven

Fishing, boating and camping in the Loch Etive wilderness

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Fishing 2016 – Onwards and upwards?

Traditionally this is about time for a whisky fuelled look into what fishing 2016 might offer together with a review of how 2015 went. Given the past year was fairly quiet in fishing terms I’ve combined the two into one post.

I’ve added a short video below of the 2015 fishing highlights – mainly toping in the SW for a week with Trevor and Ian, but a few other shots as well, including a very satisfying trip to Sandwood Bay.

There must be a fair bit of hermit in me, as I get deep satisfaction from exploring the wilder, less accessible corners of Scotland, whether or not there’s much in the way of fish waiting for me. Preferably in calm, dry and midge-free conditions of course 🙂

Myself with a typical Galloway tope
Myself with a typical Galloway tope

In that vein, the most memorable trips of the last few years are a 110 mile tour round Mull in Alcatraz, my overnight at Sandwood Bay last year, and a superb couple of days on Loch Etive the year before. None of these provided great fishing although that rather neatly emphasises that angling is only one element of the outdoors for me, albeit a big one.

A night camping on Etive
A night camping on Etive

So this year the plan isn’t wildly different – a week in Galloway, chasing the excellent and varied fishing down there and a day or two in the north west. The trip planning’s sketched out for a couple of longer Alcatraz “cruises” in the Sea of the Hebrides if the weather plays ball. The thought of a run through Corryvreckan and around Jura is definitely appealing and quite do-able with care.

And I do want to get back to Mull, although probably more for a bit of camping with a rod than an out-and-out fishing trip.

Playing a skate as the sun fades
Playing a skate as the sun fades

Nowadays I still enjoy catching a few codling or spurdog, but it is a smaller part of what drives me outside. However, given the minimal amount of time I spent codding last year I think I’ll need to up my game a little, if only to top up the freezer! Ian’s an expert at catching inshore Pollack, with the photos to prove it, and I’m very much an also ran. It’s partly incompetence but with a good chunk of laziness thrown in – I really need to persist a bit more with artificials this year.

A more respectable codling
A more respectable codling

Tope, hounds and huss obviously feature high on the SW list, but bass are likely to be problematic – not that I catch many anyway, but I’ve tended to go for them before the end of June rather than after so the new restrictions will need to be checked out properly…

New Toys?

The fishing kit is reasonably up to speed, unless I get heavily into freshwater again, although my trusty old Torium 16 could do with being retired. A more urgent need is to upgrade some of the fishing clothing, probably starting with a pair of waterproof trousers that actually repel water – pretty essential in the SIB unless you want to go for a full drysuit or wetsuit.

Boat-wise, I added a hand held VHF for the SIB last year but will need to replace the fixed set on the Warrior. Apart from that the most obvious need is a new set of binoculars to replace the 30 year old pair that’s falling apart – I definitely find them useful afloat and wouldn’t want to be without them.

Camping at Sandwood Bay
Camping at Sandwood Bay

I never did get around to replacing the tent last year, but I think it’s time will come in 2016. The current one’s a Vango Banshee 300 which is 7 or 8 years old now and has actually done a brilliant job for me. It’s not exactly falling apart, but I could do with something a bit lighter for solo backpacking. The trouble is that dropping the weight of the Vango from 2.5kg to nearer 1kg gets pretty expensive and I’m not too sure how robust some of the lightweight offerings really are.

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2015?

I can’t claim 2014 was a great year for fishing, as a broken leg put me out of action for several months and I barely fished the early part of the autumn for various reasons. So it’s a case of onwards and upwards for the new year, I guess 🙂

Looking back, I’d say my highlights were a Galloway trip at the end of May, a couple of gorgeous days out on Etive in late summer, and a 3 day camping/fishing trip in November, hunkered down in the hidden anchorage at Dun Ghallain, Loch Sunart.

Not large, but still beautiful - a Galloway bass
Not large, but still beautiful – a Galloway bass

Galloway is in a league of its own concerning summer fishing, with a range of species difficult to match elsewhere in Scotland and a setting that is wild and beautiful, but just a less bleak than further north.

Trips to Etive and Sunart are more about atmosphere than quality fishing and it’s true that in recent years I’ve found I’m as much interested in exploring our coastline, nights under the stars in remote spots, and photography as I am in catching a few fish and I’m guessing this will continue.

Hardly the most testing sea conditions...
Hardly the most testing sea conditions – Etive in September

At the same time boundaries still need to be stretched a bit, and Etive, Leven and Sunart get a little restrictive after a winter confined to their sheltered waters. Time is still my main constraint, with only a few opportunities for multi-day trips in the year, which is one of the reasons I try and target effort carefully.

Leaving Dun Ghallain anchorage just after sunrise
Loch Sunart – leaving Dun Ghallain anchorage just after sunrise

So the top 3 fishing targets…

A week in Galloway in June is high on the list. I’ve tended to try and juggle family pressures, forecasts and tides to try and take time off at very short notice. However the result tends to mean I don’t get down there often enough, so a different approach will apply this year and I’ll just have to accept the risk of south westerly winds blowing solidly for a week. So tope, bass and smoothies are probably top of the fishy hit list.

FiddenFarm1

I want to get back to Mull. It’s southern and western coasts are amazing with some very remote and dramatic spots – but with weather to match. A couple of years ago I took Alcatraz right round Mull, on a 110 mile daytrip, and it’s tempting to do a repeat over two or three days to allow for a little more fishing time. Backpacking along the south coast, or into the Wilderness (its actual name) near Gribun is up there too, with or without a rod. In surroundings like these I’m not sure I care too much about the quality of fishing. There’s also the banks surrounding Caliach Point if the weather plays ball in late August or September – although hauling a trailer along to Kilchoan on Ardnamurchan might make for a long road trip.

Third place is a draw between the far north west (think Laxford, Sandwood Bay, Durness) and Skye. Weather and travel times are the bigger issues here, as neither are exactly day trip territory. I’ve been to Sandwood a couple of times before, but I do fancy taking a shore rod and a tent along in autumn once the midgies get less troublesome and before the winter gales really set in. Skye is similar, and I’ve been there before as well, but not for many years. The temptation here is to take along the inflatable as well as some shore gear and hope the weather gods tolerate me for a day or two.

And my also-rans…

DSCF8010– Gigha and Cara/Mull of Kintyre. A beautiful area, and I might be tempted for a trip to Cara again with a view to early season Pollack. However it’s a long way for a day trip.

185lb Loch Sunart Skate
185lb Loch Sunart Skate

– I’ll probably get around to this again in the grim depths of March, but skate fishing doesn’t really get my juices flowing. It’s just got the wrong mix of boredom mixed with spells of back-breakingly hard work. Every now and again I forget how bad it is and give it another go, but I usually need some persuasion.

DSCF8082C2

 

– And of course I’ll be out east coast coddie bashing and west coast spurries/ray fishing, hopefully fairly frequently, but this is bread and butter stuff so doesn’t really rate a place in the target list. I could pop down a 10lb cod, 15lb spur, etc. but I don’t find that much of a motivation – delighted if I catch a cod double, but it’s not really what gets me out on the water.

– Shetland has obvious attractions, but also has weather issues. I just don’t fancy all the hassle of getting there only to be blown off or restricted by the gales that tend to blast the islands. Given that I’m not particularly motivated by a large cod (or by charter boats) I think I’ll leave it for now.

So what new toys are in mind? A lighter backpacking tent and a shiny new camera lens are part of the plan, but I’m not so sure about any fancy new fishing gear. I’ll probably replace my Grauvell Teklon spinning rod that met an unfortunate accident last year, but no rush to do much more. My pair of old Zzipplex shore rods are both well over 20 years old now, but still do a decent enough job, and I don’t really do enough shore fishing to justify spending a small fortune replacing them.

The boat needs a new VHF and I’ll probably get a new handheld with integrated GPS as a backup and for use on the inflatable. I’ve just acquired a new Crewsaver Ergofit lifejacket which is a big upgrade over the previous kit – smaller and much more wearable, plus it has a sprayhood and light fitting. Other than that the Warrior looks set for the year and I think I’ll manage to resist the temptation to upgrade to the latest and greatest sonar.

 

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Updates to Corkwing

Holiday season is upon us, so when I can’t get out fishing and get bored with Xmas tedium (both happen too often!) I tend to make larger updates to this site to keep it up and running properly. So this time…

Quite a chunky change is the move to a new look and feel for Corkwing, that makes better use of images and allows me to highlight particular content or trip reports. This means quite a few tweaks still need to be made to take advantage of the new capabilities, mainly through adding or changing images, which I’ll sort out over Christmas.

Also some updates to pages, including a new one covering Loch Leven, which I’m fishing more often these days. Some have expanded content and others some additional images added.

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